Empty Bed Blues

I can hear the beanbag chair rustle as she levers herself out of it. The brisk strides to the bathroom, the slamming door, the silence. The toilet flushes, the door opens, three steps, the crunch of beads and the chimes as she unpauses the game to continue her immersion into Link's latest adventure.

I'm upstairs in the tub, soaking my bruised ribs after two weeks of intense coughing finally wore my body down. Breathing is uncomfortable, laughter is a slight sting and the inevitable cough that follows is a sharp jab in the side. I haven't had a quiet moment to myself for a while. Too little occupying my mind tends to bring my focus back to the itch in my lungs, the little cough-goblin trying to claw its way out of my throat with every exhale.

I climb out of the bath and wince as I try to dry off without actually touching my aching side. I want to tell her I'm ready for bed, but I don't know if I can handle seeing my own selfishness reflected back at me again.

I think about watching her play. Her face still with concentration; her mouth opens a little as she leans forward. She doesn't respond to casual conversation once she's in deep. Direct questions are acknowledged with a slightly annoyed quip -- anything to satisfy my attention so she can get on with playing.

I gingerly make my way down the stairs, the sounds of epic music and a horse galloping grow louder with each step. I can already feel my mind slipping into the well worn track of our conversations the last few nights. I shuffle into the living room and keep my eyes locked on her, careful to avoid looking at the TV and spoiling any surprises the game may have in store for me. She's about 30 hours further than I am.

"Hey," I say. "It's 2AM, I think I'm going to bed."

She doesn't respond. I think she heard me; her eyebrow twitched.

"Acknowledge that you heard me," I say, like I'm speaking to a drunk. "Last night you were surprised at how late it was an hour after I'd already told you."

"Yes, I heard you," she says with a smirk, her expression melting back into neutral as the last syllable passes her lips.

"Ok, good night."

I lean forward to kiss her. She shies away reflexively, staring intently at the screen.

It's my turn to slog up the stairs alone. To make the bed and climb into the cold sheets, listening to the distant swish of swords and grunting enemies. I am Karla, staring at the dark ceiling and listening to her husband obliterate pixels as if they were more important than that state we sometimes reach just before sleep, when we have our best conversations.

This is what she's done hundreds of times before, only rarely complaining when a game keeps me up too many nights in a row.

I'm not used to lying in an empty bed. Usually it would be me sliding in after playing games for half the night, enjoying the pre-warmed covers and watching her breathe softly. I would revel in those moments of feeling so damn lucky to be with this beautiful, tolerant woman. Seeing it from the other side, it casts my game playing into a different light. It makes me burn with shame for not seeing it sooner.

I lay awake for an hour. I don't sleep well at the best of times; sleeping alone is even worse. Eventually the sound stops. I hear her turn off the lights and tip toe up the stairs. She brushes her teeth and quietly slips into bed, trying not to disturb me. I'm awake, but I keep my breathing regular, playing into her assumption. I don't want to chide her or ask how the game is. I just want to curl up around this guilty feeling and remember it very well.

Comments

It's articles like this that make me really enjoy this site. You definately got the empty bed feeling down. I had a moment of realization like this once and now I try not to "just finish this one more thing" before going to bed.

Nice.
I've got a vaguely similar situation going with the gf and Viva Pinata. Before I was just irritatied with her, not guilty about it. Thanks.

That's why I didn't marry a girl gamer....I would hate to be on the other side of things. I think all the time about how nice it would be to talk about my hobby and share it with her. Thanks for the reality check Certis:)

If a woman is still in my bed after a late-night gaming session, then she's had too much to drink and probably shouldn't drive herself home.

You got it, man, and i've been guilty of it too. I've only seen the wife wrapped up in a game like that once, the rainy weekend she cranked through Half Life 2. Her determined face with its detached expression did frighten me a bit. i'm guilty of that as well, but i've tried harder to spend less time in front of the console/tv/computer screen when i could be with her.

That's also why it took me 2 years to get my WoW main to 60, but i've probably enjoyed the overall experience more.

Not much to say but well done and I hope you feel better soon.

Nice. You really got to me.

Now that my girlfriend is done School for the semester she's spending an awful lot of playing WoW at hours almost opposite mine. I came to the same conclusion in that if she doesn't complain about it when I'm up with the lads playing Gears, I can't complain about another run through some crappy dungeon.

Certis wrote:

I'm not used to lying in an empty bed.

Obviously.

Hey Zed, they've got the little cushion barrier, so it's not gay!

I lean forward to kiss her. She shies away reflexively, staring intently at the screen.

I know it's a completely normal reaction to her cone of attention being disturbed, but it still gets me. Good luck with getting better, and you're a damn lucky man!

Wow...thanks for giving the opposite perpspective. Last night, I tucked her in at 10:00, gave a flury of kisses, and proceeded to game for the next 4 hours straight. I then crept back into the room, slipped into the pre-warmed bed, and slept like a rock. I really should go to sleep with her more often...

My wife and I had The Conversation about giong to bed solo about a year and a half ago. She'd go to bed, and I'd game for another couple of hours. It was particularly bad when I was looking for a new job - no reason to get up in the morning means no reason to come to bed.

We now go to bed together, and it's a whole lot better than not. Occasionally I'll be up playing something; these days, it's more likely that, if we're coming up at different times, she's coming up after me - she's totally unable to stop playing Zuma (or very rarely WoW). For all that I think I sleep better alone, I much prefer having her there. I know she's prefers having me there.

Certis: Write more often.

Beware, DS. This is your future, staring you back in the face.

Nicely done, Certis. I think we've all been there, done that in this situation. One of your better articles, I think - captures the moment precisely.

One last thought though: maybe Karla, in addition to being engrossed in her game, shied away from your kiss because you were a festering cesspit of communicable disease.

One of the best pieces I've read here. I didn't smile so much as I ached from reading it.
The good stuff's often not the happy fun stuff.

KaterinLHC wrote:

One last thought though: maybe Karla, in addition to being engrossed in her game, shied away from your kiss because you were a festering cesspit of communicable disease. ;)

I'm glad someone said it.

This is a constant issue of "debate" at my house. My wife really wants me to come to bed when she does and I always feel like I could stay up for hours. The kicker is that I wake up at 6 AM everyday and my wife knows that if I stay up until 1 AM then I will be a grumpy zombie for the rest of the day. Most of the times she actually does finally convince me to lay down with her, even if I'm not sleepy, I am in a coma in about 10 minutes.

So true, so moving and so poignant.

But:

The toilet flushes, the door opens, three steps, the crunch of beads and the chimes as she unpauses the game to continue her immersion into Link's latest adventure.

Around there, do they wash hands after going to bathroom at all?

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

So true, so moving and so poignant.

But:

The toilet flushes, the door opens, three steps, the crunch of beads and the chimes as she unpauses the game to continue her immersion into Link's latest adventure.

Around there, do they wash hands after going to bathroom at all?

Man, you seem to like to harp on this. From upstairs, I doubt he'd be able to hear the running of the sink over the running of the water into the toilet. So what's there to mention? "There's a delay while she's surely washing her hands." Why ruin the flow to mention something not worth mentioning?

Certis: Bronchitis? Pneumonia? Back in 96 and 97, I managed to get pneumonia once each year. It was hell, but a great workout for my abs.

Thanks for the kind words everyone, I had a feeling my experience wasn't a unique one.

Certis: Bronchitis? Pneumonia? Back in 96 and 97, I managed to get pneumonia once each year. It was hell, but a great workout for my abs.

My dad and I both caught something on our way back from India, I think. We were on four different planes in a 40 hour period, sure breeding grounds for disease. Whatever it was (I'm still coughing a bit, but recovering) I had a one week period where going outside in the cold resulted in my getting hives for an hour. It was crazy!

When my wife and I were first married she'd get upset when I'd go to bed later than her. Usually I'd just fall asleep on the couch watching mindless TV or after gaming or working on something. Fast forward through our 9 years of marriage and it's pretty rare that we go to bed at the same time. It's not really an issue either. We both like to do our own thing at night. I think what makes it work is having a few things we definitely do together - like watching certain TV shows only together. For us it works - which I guess is all that matters.

EDIT: Doh! Forgot to say - nice article Certis. I've gone to sleep many times to the sounds of Zelda in the next room.

Thanks for this article Certis.

It reflects a situation we have had at my house, and reading this piece helps me be more sympathetic to her feelings on this issue.

It's hard when a new game comes out though or if I want to play a violent game after the kids have gone to bed. :^/

And there just isn't enough time in the day.

And there just isn't enough time in the day.

I hear ya buddy, and my only resposibilities are my job, my car, my home, and my WoW-addicted other.

After living away from my wife for 7 months I would like to think that I will not sink into my late night gaming habits when I move back. Even sleep time is precious time together.

I am gamer though, and with a good portion of my winter unemployed it's almost guaranteed that I'll be sliding into the prewarmed bed on more than one occasion.

Good stuff Certis!

Great article Certis. Three quick questions: Did you get any vaccinations before traveling? Also how long have you had this cough and has it gotten any better or worse since you got back?

Back in the early days of our relationship I used to go to bed angry at Zero. I couldn't stay up until 4am like he could. I'm not sure when I got over it but I did. There was just no reason to be mad. Now we're no longer in high school and he has a steady job that requires waking up at 7am. Now I'm the one who goes to bed after he does.

Dr._J wrote:

Great article Certis. Three quick questions: Did you get any vaccinations before traveling? Also how long have you had this cough and has it gotten any better or worse since you got back?

I dropped you a PM, doc. No need to drag out all the details here.

lunabean wrote:

Back in the early days of our relationship I used to go to bed angry at Zero. I couldn't stay up until 4am like he could. I'm not sure when I got over it but I did. There was just no reason to be mad. Now we're no longer in high school and he has a steady job that requires waking up at 7am. Now I'm the one who goes to bed after he does.

Very similar to our situation here lately, damn my news writing job! I was able to roll out of bed around 9 or 10AM before, it was so sweet.

My warden, er wife, allows me to stay up video games two nights a week. Since I have to get up at 5am for work I don't make it very late, ayways. You just need to lay down the law.

I remember that guilty feeling back in the day, though.

It's funny, I remember this being quite a big deal for us earlier in our relationship, but I honestly can't rememember the details of how it got worked out either. I mean, a big part of my problem is that I have very little conscious control over my sleeping habits. My body will decide when it is ready to sleep, and as much as I try to fight it, I can't really seem to rest when it doesn't want to.

I think a big part of the solution, however, may have been my overdeveloped sense of guilt. I feel horribly guilty about even the smallest things that I don't even have control over, so it really tore me up knowing that Luna was going to sleep unhappy when I was still not ready to go to bed. Of course, like Luna mentioned it also certainly helps that due to my work schedule my body has now decided that it is going to sleep from about 10:30 PM to 6:30 or 7 AM whenever possible (rather than 2 AM to 10 AM like when I was in high school and college), which means now I go to lengths to stay up later when I don't have to work in the morning so that I can spend more time with her and go to sleep at the same time as her. The loss of late nights annoyed me at first, but now I couldn't be more thankful for the change. One less stupid that makes me feel unnecessary guilt is fine by me.

Of course, being the wonderful lady that she is, she always makes sure to spend plenty of time with me before I go to bed, even when she has a game to play or a show to watch, so I never have any reason to feel upset as I'm going to sleep.

Anyway, the only suggestion I have anyone who is struggling with this problem is simple to state but not one that will be easy to make happen, especially since it means less gaming time overall. However, it also means more happy time with your significant other, which I see as a worthwhile trade. Whenever possible, just go to bed when he/she does. On work nights this means you probably won't get much gaming in, but whatever; the extra sleep will do you good at work in the morning. Hell, you might even be able to kick that awful caffeine habit. And on weekends, you can just wake up early and get your extra gaming done then.

Hell, you might even be able to kick that awful caffeine habit. And on weekends, you can just wake up early and get your extra gaming done then.

Totally, zero:) When I'm off, I can get some good console and WoW time in on early sat mornings, (it's reminiscent of being a kid and racing downstairs to watch sat morning cartoons) and i let my wife sleep in. win win.

Can't fathom the caffeine part, though. This is the pacific NW, without caffeine i'd go insane.